Published: July 1st 2012July 1st 2012
As I really only had one full day in Gyeonju, and the particular things I wanted to get to were relatively spread out, this meant a relatively early start (like 11!). There was a free espresso coffee machine in the lobby of the hotel so almost gave a random button a push (they were labelled in Korean after all) and at least got a shortish black coffee which wasn't too tragic. Noted that they even have a toaster, some bread and jam sachets. However I have tended to rely on places like Paris Baguette for my morning pastry. In this case I ended up heading off with only the coffee under my belt as I headed straight to the bus stop. Buses here tend to be of the exact change variety, although if you throw 2 x 1000 won notes into the fare hopper the driver can give you a 500 won coin as change from the dispenser. The temple site of Bulguksa sounded important so made a beeline for that on the number 11 bus. Although they did have English announcements as well at the major sites I certainly did not catch that one even though I was listening. The
fact that half of the bus got off was however a bit of a clue!
The place was built in 528 by then King Kim Daeseong of the Shilla dynasty in honour of his parents. Unfortunately for me all of the buddhas are out of bounds for photography. You will therefore have to put up with photographs of pagodas and generally the pretty impressive stone work which makes up the place (not to mention the timber and painting). The other major site in the area is the Seokguram grotto by the same king in honour of his parents in a former life (Buddhist concept there). This is a further 20 minute bus ride up the quite steep beautiful wooded slopes of Mt Toham. I must admit that the woods/forests that I have seen here in passing or walking through have been quite impressive and I can see why they get all dressed up (as they do) in their action Jackson outdoor clothing and walking sticks to go hiking etc (just as well I have not had to put up with this on weekends when it all goes a bit mad apparently). This is a grotto with a large granite
Buddha in it and other figures. Although the Buddha itself was quite impressive, the buildup had me expecting something different.
Back on the 35 minute or so bus back to town jumped off at the Anapji gardens/pond area. Unfortunately here all the original Royal buildings have been destroyed so there is not much to look at other than the ponds (from which have been recovered a lot of artifacts). There are quite large areas of lotus flower ponds on either side however. Although there were a reasonable number of lotus flowers out it was nevertheless not entirely carpeted with them as one might hope for atthis time of year. As the Gyeongju national museum was also close decided to take that one in as well as it is too far to walk back to tomorrow. A large amount of this stuff is very similar to what I have already seen in the National Museum in Seoul. Walked from there over to the Bunhwangsa temple site but that was already closed -- however I could see over the relatively low wall that what remains of the pagoda (3 of 9 orignal storeys) did not look that impressive so saved myself
the time and money of going back. Then over to the site of the first astronomical observatory in Asia, Cheongseomdae, built in 625 odd. By then it was getting dark and I got a free lit up view of the stone structure, which once again was not exactly what I was expecting.
Then wandered along further trying to find some alleged ssambap places where you wrap the side dishes up in lettuce leaves etc. I did not find them but ended up in the hands of a lady at another place who recommended the spicy tofu soup. This was the usual broiling stone pot with lots of tofu, not to mention quite strong green chilli flavour (not to mention a prawn as well so not exactly vegetarian either). On the other hand it was only seven dollars and had the usual array of side dishes.
There are more photos below